Dan Paladin, is a Co-Owner, Art Director, and the Creative Mind behind The Behemoth a pioneer in independent game development. They publish across a variety of consoles and platforms.
In 2003, The Behemoth launched Alien Hominid, which went on to become a racing success. Could you tell us about this game and what made it so iconic?
Alien Hominid was one of the first of its kind. When the prototype was initially launched, it was a Flash game that was playable in your browser on Newgrounds.com; this uniqueness and accessibility allowed it to gain a bit of a following, and when we decided to be the first devs to bring a Flash game to the home consoles as a full retail game that you had to buy in a store, our fanbase showed up in full force.
Alien Hominid HD also gained notoriety because it was absolutely brutal; one-hit kills, locked on threats, and no room for mistakes. However, it was possible to memorize your enemy’s attack patterns, which turned the game into a skill that could be mastered with enough practice. We even won a slot in the PS2 Hall of Fame for Top Ten Hardest PS2 Games of All Time™. Booya!
The next game under development is Alien Hominid Invasion. What should players expect from this game?
Set in the same universe as Alien Hominid, Alien Hominid Invasion is a reimagination of our studio’s first game. While our new game will continue the story, it’s certainly a brand new beast when it comes to gameplay! Alien Hominid Invasion is built on chaos and mayhem; every level is unique, and your approach to how you take on each challenge can be, too! These new Aliens have a ton of options for movement, and there are loads of unlockables that players can collect and piece together to create their own playstyle. If you thought sidescrollers were fun, wait till you try our “widescroller” gameplay where you can pick your own path and zoom every which way!
What type of players will most be attracted to this game?
While Alien Hominid Invasion does have some of the fast-paced chaos that attracts a certain type of player, we hope that the game will bring together a wide variety of folks. At its core, one might call it a run ‘n’ gun (and believe me, it took us a long time to figure out what genre it best fit), but there are tons of options like weapons, hats, and mutations that will let a player play exactly how they want. Pair that with flexible mobility, and you are no longer locked to the “always go right” of a typical 2D shooter; you’ve got a game that practically begs you to play however you want.
Like all of our games, co-op is also an option in Alien Hominid Invasion — a unique feature is that everyone is able to pick their own difficulty level when playing in co-op, so we hope that this will encourage people to play together and help them enjoy it more when they do!
17 years is a long gap between an original game and its sequel. What inspired launching this sequel?
During those 17 years since Alien Hominid first launched, a lot has changed for the Behemoth. As we were finishing up our last game, Pit People, we started looking back to Alien Hominid and we began to realize that the game wasn’t as accessible anymore due to generations of consoles fading out and we had never released it on PC. When we thought about how we wanted to make sure the “Alien” carried on, we realized that we have the experience to make a game that is much improved from our earliest days; it was an interesting opportunity to take everything we’ve learned since then and rethink it, turning it into something new. When we put together a prototype of what a new Alien Hominid game might look like, it ended up being too much fun for us to pass up!
What gaming systems will this be available on?
At launch, Alien Hominid Invasion will be coming to PC (via Steam), Xbox, and Nintendo Switch! We are a small team, so we would like to bring it to other platforms later, but nothing is set in stone yet. Anyone interested in a version for your TI-85 graphing calculator?
Other games that are offered by The Behemoth include Castle Crashers, Battleblock Theater, and Pit People. Could you tell us about these games as well?
Each one of our games is very different — we tend to try out a new genre with each trip down game development lane, but we always make a point to include co-op in all of our games. Our first game was the level-based run ‘n’ gun Alien Hominid. Next up was Castle Crashers, our take on a four player beat-em-up adventure. We’d never designed a platformer before, so our third game, BattleBlock Theater, was our take on the genre with a “co-optional” game play mode that let you mess with your friends… or help them, maybe. That title was followed up by Pit People (which is arguably our most substantial title so far), a turn-based strategy game with a continuation of our complex “Behemoth Universe” story. For a strategy game, it is very accessible but also profoundly deep and satisfying. Like Thanksgiving dinner!
What in your opinion differentiates The Behemoth from other gaming studios?
We tend to have playable versions of our games at trade shows as soon as they have any semblance of a gameplay loop. We then take whatever this prototype is and rely heavily on our audience’s reaction to guide our development the rest of the way. There is always consistent design emphasis on co-op merged with our own self-awareness and we don’t really know what we’re making until it happens.
The best example of this would be Castle Crashers, which was originally slated for the Gamecube. After showing it off at Comic-Con 2005 (ouch, so long ago and so many people packed like sardines in the aisles…I digress…) we weren’t 100% satisfied by the reaction, so we took what we had and redid it from the ground up. Completely. From. Scratch. If you look up “Castle Crashers Beta” on youtube you should be able to see what the old version looked and played like. We made fundamental changes, seasons came and went, years passed, then Viola! an awesome game was released. It never would have happened if we had followed the regular game development process just plodded along under the FOSO. (Fear Of Starting Over™).
Is there anything else that you would like to share about The Behemoth?
Since we can’t do this interview in person, we thought it would be fun if you heard about our five favorite things that we’ve experienced in the last year, That Year of Covid™! It is so easy to focus on what has been hard and scary, because that’s what we hear about most around us. So here’s five faves in no particular order….
- More sleep. Our studio has switched over to remote work, so the commute from home to office is now defined by how much laundry is in the way, not how much traffic is on the road.
- It’s Casual Friday… everyday! From the neck up! (Not that we ever had uniforms…no, not us an indie dev…never….)
- Time to think. We spend a couple of months a year getting ready for, or being on the road for tradeshows, so now instead of trying to think about a game design on a delayed redeye flight from here to there, I can just open my sketchbook and draw or write.
- In the Before Times™, we always assumed that everyone would be around in the studio always and forever, so having our world reimagined helped us reconnect with each other not just as colleagues, but as friends.
- The taste of a ripe nectarine on the summer solstice. Divine.
Last of all, you can always send any and all fan email to email@example.com so we know you are still out there. That way we can make fun games just for you!
Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit The Behemoth.